2023 CBR Summer Students tour the netCAD Blood4Research Facility

Written by: Christina Pan, CBR summer student alum 2023 (right)

Written by: Shouka Farrokh, CBR summer student alum 2023 (middle)

Edited by: Alexandra Witt, Graduate Student, Dr. Pryzdial Lab (left)

netCAD facility

2023 CBR Summer Students

On July 20th, 2023, the 2023 Centre for Blood Research (CBR) summer students visited the netCAD Blood4Research facility, tucked away in UBC’s University Village. Our tour of the facility offered an opportunity to learn about what they do, why they do it, and how it all fits into the larger Canadian Blood Services (CBS) network.

Unlike most CBS donor centres, the netCAD facility is unique in collecting blood for research and development rather than clinical purposes. Not only does this netCAD facility test new technologies to help improve blood products to be deployed in clinical settings, such as UV pathogen inactivation, but they also provide blood products for academic research. Due to the lower demand for blood products at netCAD and the limited shelf life of the blood products, instead of collecting blood from as many donors as possible, blood is collected on an as-needed basis. This can be for netCAD’s needs, industry needs, or for supplying researchers in academia. Given the many uses, companies, hospitals, and scholars alike rely on this invaluable resource; blood.

As part of the tour, we got an overview of the blood processing method, from donation to the final product. We walked through the typical steps a donor would take upon arriving at the facility. When the donors arrive with their ID, they fill out a questionnaire, followed by a screening, to emphasize donor and recipient safety. After a typical whole blood donation of about 480ml, all donors are allotted 5-15 minutes of rest time with plenty of water and juice.

In an exciting “behind the scenes” look, we were given the chance to see the blood processing after collection. As the blood is collected, it is mixed with an anticoagulant to prevent clotting as it leaves the body. Whole blood units can then be separated into the plasma, buffy coat, and red blood cells. The separation process involves centrifuging the units and separating the components based on density, with the plasma at the top and the blood cells at the bottom. The separated components can undergo further processing to reach the final product; for instance, the red blood cells are further filtered to separate any additional white blood cells that could cause an immune response in a donor. Plasma from four different donors can be combined to make one large unit of pooled plasma. As we witnessed the process of removing white cells from red cells, as well as the separation of the plasma and buffy coat, we learned that each donation turns into three blood products. Each of the three blood products has different storage requirements: red cells can be stored in the fridge for 42 days, platelets can be stored in an incubator for 7-10 days, and plasma can be frozen for longer-term storage. We were also briefly introduced to apheresis, where whole blood is taken, but the red cells are returned to the donor, and only the platelets and plasma are kept.

Our visit to the netCAD facility was a valuable and informative experience as researchers to learn more about the importance of blood donation and its many applications. As always, there is a great need for donors in Canada. As such, we encourage everyone to donate blood whenever possible, and feel free to learn a thing or two about the donation centre in the process!